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"He died doing what he loved, checking his mentions while driving."
I read this online somewhere and it made me think about what’s important in life, like... will someone update my Facebook status if I die? What will happen to my 1000 Instagram photos of my cats? If I die, can I still get followers?
The sad reality is, there are many third parties that an administrator of an estate will have to notify when someone has passed away.
With the rise in estate litigation, most third parties now require the authority of the executors of the estate, either directly or via their legal representation to communicate about circumstances of a deceased.
Having said this, it is surprising to see how many institutions fail to have any formal bereavement policy in place that is accessible to people looking for information about how to interact with third parties when someone has died.
Where it is not clear who can administer the estate, those parties interested in the affairs of a deceased should seek advice before taking any steps in administering an estate.
While some institutions just require, for example, a copy of the death certificate, the will (if any) and any standard lodgement form, a lot of third parties are now requiring certification from the court that the executors can act for the estate – often called a ‘grant of probate’ or ‘letters of administration’.
Ultimately, who you need to notify largely depends on the circumstances of the deceased and the complexity of their arrangements.
A list of common third parties that may need to be notified can be downloaded here.
When parties should be notified also depends on the circumstances of the deceased.
A conservative approach would be to notify relevant parties as soon as practicable. However, parties should consider the effect this would have, for example on practical issues such as the freezing of bank accounts.
Administrators should also consider the effect of delaying notification, including for example having to repay social security payments, manage other debts and payment of late fees for notification.
How can I make this easier on those administering my estate?
A comprehensive estate plan should include documentation or other communication that sets out important information for those that are administering the estate.
Often the best way that this is achieved is through preparation of a ‘letter of wishes’ or similar document. This document accompanies your will and provides a lot of detail about your estate that is outside the formal requirements of a will.
This can include for example, parties to notify, account numbers and a list of institutions that you have an interest in. Many parties also put the details of trusted advisers who they recommend the executors contact for assisting with administration of their estate.
A template letter of wishes can be downloaded here.
This document is a guide only. You should consider carefully and with proper advice about what should be included in any letter of wishes you create.
Executors should be aware of the usual third parties that need to be contacted and those that are specific to the circumstances of the deceased. Leaving some guidance in a letter of wishes significantly helps those administering your estate to locate more readily the parties you believe also need to be informed of your death.
For those that want to understand their rights to challenge an estate, see our recent post on the 5 things you need to know about challenging an estate.
If you would like to discuss who you should contact about the death of a loved one, please reach out to us.
General Advice Disclaimer
Information provided on this website is general in nature and does not constitute financial or legal advice. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided is accurate, but information may become outdated as legislation and new government announcements are made. Individuals must not rely on this information to make a financial, investment or legal decision as it does not take into account their personal circumstance. Before making any decision, we recommend you consult a licensed adviser or legal practitioner to take into account your particular objectives, circumstances and individual needs.